Small Craft Advisory: Oasis Of The Seas, Part 1: Blaze Nightclub

For passengers on Oasis of the Seas, the newest of the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCCL) fleet, the cruise ship is aptly named. Not only is it decked out with the usual watering holes and restaurants, but it sports the first cupcake shop on the high seas—sweet!

Launched in late 2009, RCCL’s 16-deck, 5,400-passenger, $1.4 billion Oasis is the largest ship of its kind. At 225,282 tons, it is five times bigger than the Titanic. Working with shipbuilder STX of Finland, the global design firm FUNA provided technical design, engineering, and audiovisual system integration for the more than 50 entertainment venues. And there is no shortage of entertainment. The floating resort is divided into seven themed neighborhoods: Central Park, Boardwalk, Royal Promenade, Pool and Sports Zone, the Vitality at Sea Spa, Fitness Center, and the Youth Zone. If passengers get tired of their ocean views, Central Park has 12,000 live plants and trees to help them get back to nature, and in addition to the obligatory deck games and swimming pools, the ship has a miniature golf course and an ice rink, as do other vessels in the RCCL fleet. These myriad choices leave the ship’s nightlife a lot to live up to.

Michael Riotto of Michael Riotto Design LLC designed the lighting for many of the entertainment venues, among them, the nightclubs Boleros, Blaze, and Dazzles, the Jazz Club, the Comedy Live club, and the Viking Crown Observation Deck. The spaces each have a distinct atmosphere, so Riotto was not constrained by a unifying theme, but, he says, “There needed to be a common thread from a consistency standpoint in terms of control. We didn’t want to have different types of consoles in all the venues, for all the obvious reasons, but maintenance was a consideration.”

In most of the venues, there are no control booths; each space has a standard AV rack and an Interactive Technologies Cue Server. “We’ve been using [them] for almost five years now, and we love them,” Riotto says of the Cue Servers. “They’re extremely powerful, yet simple to operate and allow for expansion.”

Riotto’s designs evolved with the ship. After initially planning to do a backlit ceiling in the Latin-themed Boleros club, the ceiling height was lowered by the ship’s designers, forcing Riotto to shelve the idea. The design for Blaze nightclub, a Live Design Excellence Award winner this year, was also adapted after the space was changed from a two-story venue to just one level. However, the size of the oval-shaped dance floor stayed the same and gave the lighting designer the opportunity to create an innovative ceiling. “The architect didn’t have anything planned for it,” he says. “It was just a matte black ceiling with a mirrored soffit running around it for lighting.”

With a minimal budget and what Riotto calls “creative finagling,” the designer used 4½" Traxon 64PXL Mirror Wash RGB 64 tiles to turn the ceiling in Blaze into a low-resolution video screen. The tiles usually hang on walls with a simple picture keyhole attachment. “We did a lot of programming and control for the ceiling, uploading video content to an e:Cue Control System with 32 DMX universes, and we play it back just like a lighting cue.”

Anjeanette Stokes from Michael Riotto Design worked closely with Rina Weinberg at Traxon to create the LED ceiling and rescue the space from the look of sprinkler heads and black paint. The flexibility created by the tiles also transforms the space for daytime functions and lessens the effect of the lowered ceiling. “Without the [Traxon] ceiling, it felt like you were in a Coke can,” adds Riotto.

Because of the height restriction in Blaze, Riotto couldn’t use fixtures with moving heads, and instead chose Martin Mania SCX 600s and 800s. “We spec a lot of Martin to begin with, and our client has historically been a Martin-heavy brand,” Riotto says. “The SCXs have a low profile, and you get a lot of bang for your buck.” Another Martin choice that works well with the ceiling height are the twin-head Martin/Jem Magnum Club Smoke units, one on each side of the dance floor.

About 70% of the dance floor in Blaze is bordered by a textured rock wall, giving what Riotto calls “a dungeon-y feel.” The mirrored soffit drops down about 8", enough for Riotto to place 36' of Philips Color Kinetics iColor QLX mounted flush to the ceiling around the perimeter. “We used the 6" sections to downlight the wall, each one individually controlled, and the 6" fixture gives a really good color blend,” says the designer. While he has no complaints about the LED fixtures he used in several venues, including the Viking Crown Observation Lounge—he calls them “so simple, they were a nice choice”—he mentions that the long lead time required him to have fixture choices set in stone two years before the launch, and the LED market changes so rapidly that there are now many more available. LED Source supplied many of the Philips Color Kinetics fixtures in the nightclub venues.

Because the lighting in the club is DJ-controlled, Riotto’s team programmed around 100 different looks so that a DJ can set a 4- or 5-minute cue for a particular mood, and it automatically runs into other looks in the same style.

Stay tuned for more on Oasis of the Seas, or check out the full story in the June/July issue of Live Design.

Hannah Kate Kinnersley began her publishing career at TCI/Lighting Dimensions in 1992, at the age of three. She has contributed stories to every version of the magazine since then, despite occasionally breaking away to work for lesser organs such as The Wall Street Journal and For this issue, she brings her pond kayaking skills to bear on the largest ship in the world, Oasis of the Seas.

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